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Before You Go
No vaccinations are required to visit Jamaica.
Health insurance is essential for all travelers to Jamaica. If you develop a life-threatening medical problem, you’ll probably want to be evacuated to a country with state-of-the-art medical care. Since this may cost tens of thousands of dollars, be sure you have insurance to cover this before you depart.
MD Travel Health (www.mdtravelhealth.com) Provides complete travel health recommendations for every country, updated daily, at no cost.
World Health Organization (www.who.int/ith) Publishes a superb book called International Travel and Health, which is revised annually and is available for free online.
ABC of Healthy Travel by E Walker et al, and Medicine for the Outdoors by Paul S Auerbach, are other valuable resources.
Availability & Cost of Health Care
Acceptable health care is available in most major cities and larger towns throughout Jamaica, but may be hard to locate in rural areas. To find a good local doctor, your best bet is to ask the management of the hotel where you are staying or contact your embassy in Kingston or Montego Bay. Note that many doctors and hospitals expect payment on the spot, regardless of whether you have travel health insurance.
Many pharmacies are well supplied, but important medications may not be consistently available. Be sure to bring along adequate supplies of all prescription drugs.
No See Ums
No see ums, also known as midges, are tiny biting insects that live near water. Females are blood suckers, and while their bites are not painful, they are awfully itchy. No see ums congregate in large swarms near bodies of water, puddles etc; to avoid them, wear insect repellent and skirt around their swarm areas, as the bugs will not fly too far from their ‘home’ body of water.
Throughout most of Jamaica tap water has been treated and is safe to drink, but in some far-flung rural areas it is safest to avoid it unless it has been boiled, filtered or chemically disinfected (with iodine tablets). Eat fresh fruits or vegetables only if cooked or peeled; be wary of dairy products that might contain unpasteurized milk; and be highly selective when eating food from street vendors. If you develop diarrhea, be sure to drink plenty of fluid, preferably an oral rehydration solution containing lots of salt and sugar.
Water is generally safe to drink from faucets throughout the island except in the most far-flung rural regions. It is safest, however, to stick with bottled water, which is widely available. It’s a good idea to avoid ice, particularly that sold at street stands as ‘bellywash,’ ‘snocones’ or ‘skyjuice’ – shaved-ice cones sweetened with fruit juice. Unless you’re certain that the local water is not contaminated, you shouldn’t drink it. In Jamaica’s backwaters, clean your teeth with purified water rather than tap water.